Following the government’s U-turn last year comes news that the plan to sell off state owned forests has now been finally and totally buried. An independent panel set up to decide “the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England” has come to some polite but damning conclusions:
> The £20m cost to the state of maintaining the forests and woodlands is “very modest and delivers benefits far in excess of this”.
> The benefits of England’s publicly owned forests was “greatly undervalued” by the planned sell-off
> The government’s own landmark assessment of the social benefits of woodlands was between £1 and £2 billion
> There is a striking and heartfelt connection between people and woodlands.
Of course, everyone, including those that tried to push it through, was well aware of all that, but it’s good it has been said. It means perhaps that there won’t be a renewed attempt anytime soon. Bravo to the Bishop of Liverpool, the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and others who stood up for the community. As for Caroline Spelman who blithely told Parliament “I am sorry, we got this one wrong” the Panel seems to be saying to her: “Yes, and you did so knowingly!”